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My Name is Funke

Four hundred and seventy-seven pages into Americanah, I saw it. Shocked by its presence, I sat and stared. Fixated so deeply by the letters, they ambiguated into modern hieroglyphics. I couldn’t decipher them. Familiar but distant. I took a picture and what I saw was my name.

Tosin (toe-seen) is a name of modernity. I didn’t actually discover my first name was Tosin (actually Oluwatosin) until I was in 9th grade. For a significant time of my life, I was called by my first middle name, Funke (foon-keh). As a child, Funke lent itself to humorous, but uninspired name calling: funky monkey, funky chicken, you smell funky. The one time, I fought, it was because someone made fun of my name. His name was Caleb Brown, and I hit his head against a window sill. (I won). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resolve as a child to own my name.

When I transitioned into middle school, I went by Ola, taken from my second middle name, Dolapo (doe-lah-poe). Ignorantly unaware of the Spanish language, anyone reading this could clearly see how Ola got real old, real quick. Unfortunately, I was highly temperamental in middle school, and “Hola, Ola” lost its humor quickly. I never got into a physical fight in middle school over my name, but I did have mastery of a couple of choice curse words, that aided me in my verbal assaults.

In high school, I landed on Tosin. My most preferred moniker. Half of my life, I have answered to Tosin. I love my name. It fits me well. It has a balance of edge, softness, wisdom, and verve. It has followed me through high school, college, and Texas. I have heard “Tosin” pass beautifully through the lips of friends who have loved me like family. There are not any American songs written about girls named Tosin, but I don’t really need them. Tosin is unique for me. I like that when a friend hears my name, they are not filtering through millions of Tosin’s. There is (typically) a singular Tosin, whose name creates some sort of reaction for them. It is me.

So, why was I so startled by Funke?

Two reasons. First, it was awesome to see my name in the pages of a book. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was not thinking of me when she wrote Americanah, yet I felt represented. I joined along with a 1,000’s of other Funke’s who never thought they would see their name in a novel. Dumbstruck and awestruck. I was mesmerized by the idea that me a Nigerian-American second generation immigrant, whose name was caricatured, would see my name as a complex character even for one paragraph.

Second, it brought back memories of childhood. Dormant beautiful memories of Funke, who was spunky and sweet, tomboyish and rugged. Funke, whose mind was a wonderland of colors and stories and weirdness and spontaneity. I don’t revel in my childhood. Reflections of that time period are embittered by abuses and terror. It was nice to get a morsel of it back.

Hi. My name is Funke.

Next to my many names are the proper phonetics for accurate pronunciation. 

Do Teenage White Females Understand Their Privilege?

Last Saturday, I went to Tout Suite to indulge in their infamous brunch and do some leisure reading. As I approached, four young white women stopped to take selfies, bare-shouldered and Birkenstocked. I stood patiently waiting for them to either finish or notice they were blocking me. Eventually, they politely let me pass. I walked into Tout Suite and was struck by the privilege I afforded them. One they didn’t even know they had. They had a luxury most minority girls don’t. In their aloofness and adolescent frivolity, they had been privileged with innocence. This innocence, that made them not a blockade, but just teens being teens. This innocence, that if something happened to them, they would automatically be victims. This innocence, that frees them to be nonspeculative of the world around them. It was a careless and free innocence.

I hadn’t ever noticed it before. I wasn’t angry or upset with these girls. As I settled into my book, I watched them. Lingering in front of the case of desserts, unaware of the line behind them. No one tempting to urge them or hurry them. They took selfies in front of everything. Older couples looked upon them and smiled. One spilled their drink, and several people stopped to help this damsel.

I don’t want to spend much more time discussing these 4 white adolescent females. I cannot speak on their assumed innocence. Rather, I was heartbroken for my own. I work with a predominantly African-American community. I spend a substantial amount of time with black girls. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We do each other’s hair. When I look at them they are innocent girls, but I know the world does not see them this way. Black girls don’t get the luxury of innocence. My girls get hyper-sexualized earlier. I don’t know if it is hitting puberty earlier or the commodifying language we use with black skin. All, I know you never hear anyone saying about little white girls, “Your skin is like a yummy dollop of mashed potatoes”, but there lives a level of impurity and “chocolate sinfulness” in a black girls’ skin.

Those 4 girls, were allowed to be free, and the world accommodated that.

Perhaps, history or society or a blend of the two has placed a filter on the innocence of the black girlhood. Recently, a study was released discussing the Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. It is a good read. It is pretty spot on. I agree not only based on my experiences but the experiences of my girls.

I don’t know where is post is meant to go. I have thought about this for a week. It makes me scared for black girls. Worse, if there is little innocence to be given to black girls. I cannot imagine the consequences for black women.

Actually, I can…

God help us.

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #8: Body Shaming

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 17. I never dealt with it. I have spoken about it with friends before, but for a long time, I just wished it away. I lived my life. I don’t overeat, but ate normally. As if my body would somehow just magically begin processing food normally. It doesn’t. I have been frustrated with my weight gain in mid-adulthood. I weighed myself on Friday at work. Three numbers on the screen. I quickly stepped down and recalibrated the scale. No one should see those numbers.

Shame infected me like food poisoning. I wanted to throw up. I was disgusted and nauseated. So much work has been done in the body positive movement, but I can’t feel positive about my body. I don’t. My shirt felt clingier than ever. Sticking to every pound of unprocessed meals from times before. I sat behind my desk most of the day. I began thinking of all the stupid things, I ate that week. I ate my lunch and wanted to vomit it back up. I loathed myself.

These feelings are not gone. However, I recognize this. Having PCOS is not my fault. I cannot control that. Not treating it for 10 years is my fault. I could have controlled that. I start Whole30 tomorrow for the 3rd or 4th time. Tomorrow though will be different. Tomorrow’s Whole30 begins with a complete transition into a Whole30 lifestyle. It is what my body needs. I don’t know if I care about the weight as much as I do about the shame associated with it. I don’t want to feel that shame anymore.

On my bedroom mirror, I wrote these words, “You have PCOS. Through diet, exercise, and the grace of God, you can be healed. Choose today to make wise food choices.”

Father, 

The work of Christ removes shame, right? I have so much. You know where it all lies. Currently, it sits within this broken body of mine. I have used humor and wry self-deprecation, willpower and diet plans, but nothing works. Shame comes when sin has occurred. Lord, I could justify why I didn’t do anything. Why I pretended not have a problem. You know those justifications before, I breathe them. Rather, I confess my negligence and ask forgiveness. Shame removal is a work of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit work. 

God, thank you for Your abundant Grace. You don’t see my weight or my shame as trivial, but they are of importance to You. Whole30 is just a diet, but I ask you would work on my from the inside-out. There is a brokenness in my heart about my body. Heal that brokenness. Help me become open to your healing. 

I humbly ask this, in the Name of the Risen Christ Jesus, through the Power of the Truthful Advocate, 

Amen

Lent Prayer #2: Rushed Spirit

Father, 

I’m already at a loss for time and the day is just beginning. It seems logical to ask for more time in the day to the One who is eternal. However, You give me peace. You give me patience. You remind me to slow down. Not to dwell on traffic unmoving, but the people all around who may be in need of Your Light. Slow me down to the pace of Your Son, who was able to notice a woman at a well, a paralyzed man at a pool, and me amid the billions. Let patience and perceptions be Your grace poured on me today. 

In the Name of Your Son, by the Way of Your Spirit, 

Amen

The Creation Story

I opened up my Bible for the first time in 4 months. It was open most of the semester for the sake of studying and knowing, but not for being. Not for the maintenance of a relationship with God. I don’t know what prompted reading it. Perhaps a midnight prayer? I only read 5 verses:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

I have heard and read and studied the Creation more than any other passage of Scripture. I can paraphrase Genesis 1 through 3, from memory. Today, it felt personal. It felt internalized. It felt like my creation story. While formless and void are great beginnings for the manufacturing of a world, they are not good for the human soul.

Perhaps, the Lord is hovering over the surface of my void and formlessness with pursed lips ready to speak. Perhaps, His goodness is preparing itself to be revealed. Perhaps, darkness will have to find new residence for light will come.

One day.

 

What Exactly am I Looking At?

It is Wednesday night, my sole goal this week is to survive it. Problems here. Problem there. Problems, problems everywhere. All of them tremendous and unsolvable with many tiny moving parts getting stuck in gear. My hands are weary. My labors are vanity and a chasing of the wind. It is pointless. Why try? Why?

I sit on my bed, reflecting on my day. What do I see problems or people?

Problems have gears and hands that grow weary.

People have hearts needing to be guided more clearly.

Problems, unsolvable, feel like time wasted.

People, resolvable, God’s master creation.

Problems are pointless and rise up again.

People are purposed and serve a greater end.

Since Monday all I have seen are problems. God forgive me for not seeing people who so deeply need You. People are not problems. People have problems. As the last 3/7ths of the week rounds out, I pray for my depth perception.

 

Amen